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In past decades, the American public has recognized that child sexual abuse is not solely a family problem. Sadly, there is a wide range of extra-familial contexts in which young children can be subjected to sexual abuse. This especially includes daycare, a place where parents leave their small children believing that they will be safe. Child daycare sex abuse became a subject of widespread concern in the 1980s and early 1990s, which featured several high-profile cases against daycare providers accused of committing several forms of child abuse, including Satanic ritual abuse. Even though some of this initial hysteria has died out, daycare abuse today remains a real threat to children.
Predators frequently target children for multiple reasons. First, childhood is arguably the most vulnerable period of human life; children almost entirely depend on others to fulfill their basic needs. Also, children do not possess the mental and emotional capacity to make decisions independently, which gives adults power over them that they can use to manipulate their emotions and actions into a cycle of abuse. Finally, the daycare environment itself exposes children to a higher risk of harm. The reason why abuse so frequently happens at daycares is the same reason why criminals commonly rob banks. Abusers go to daycare facilities because it gives them easy access to children.
If you believe someone is abusing your child at their local daycare center, you can take quick action to stop these terrible things from ever happening again. Contacting a trusted law firm will help ensure that you have the strong evidence and strategy needed to put these perpetrators of abuse in jail where they cannot harm your child or any other child ever again. Also, a law firm can help you obtain compensation for the injuries that your child might have suffered from the abuse, including any lasting mental effects of the abuse.
How common is daycare sexual abuse?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Service’s Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, there were 5,321 reports of child abuse or neglect in daycare centers across 39 states in 2019. Of these 5,321 cases, 14% involved physical abuse, around half of the cases involved neglect, and approximately 22% involved sexual abuse, which is much higher than the overall 8% rate of sexual abuse in all contexts. This amounts to almost 1,171 cases of sexual abuse occurring in states in 2019.
Major daycare sexual abuse cases
There have been several high-profile – sometimes sensationalist – sexual abuse cases and incidents:
- McMartin Preschool: In 1983, a mother of a child at a preschool in Manhattan Beach, California, reported to police that McMartin teacher Ray Buckey sodomized her son. Ray Buckley was the son of administrator Peggy McMartin Buckey. The McMartin Preschool case quickly descended into moral panic when more than 350 present and past enrollees accused the school’s providers of sexually abusing them in rituals that included various acts like blood-drinking, cannibalism, and infant sacrifice. In 1990, after the most lengthy and costly criminal trial in US history at the time, Peggy McMartin Buckey was acquitted of all criminal charges in the case. Ray Buckey was acquitted on all but 13 charges against him. He was retried on eight of those charges. However, due to a mistrial, the remaining eight charges were dropped.
- Country Walk: Frank Fuster and Ileana Flores owned the Country Walk Babysitting Service in a suburb of Miami, Florida. Fuster had previously been convicted of manslaughter in 1969 and for fondling a 9-year-old child in 1981. In 1985, Fuster was charged and convicted of 14 counts of child sex abuse at the service, supported by allegations from children that Fuster and his wife forced them to participate in Satanic rituals and terrorized them by making them watch Fuster mutilate birds. Fuster’s conviction was guaranteed when his wife Ileana gave a confession about the alleged crimes and her husband’s involvement in them. She later recanted her confession, claiming she was tortured until she produced the confession. Fuster remains in prison to this day, serving out his 165-year prison sentence.
- Fells Acres Day Care Center: In 1984, a 4-year-old student at the Fells Acres Day School in Malden, Massachusetts, wet himself while napping. Gerald Amirault changed the child into spare clothing after the child’s teacher directed him to do so. The boy’s parents brought sexual abuse charges against Amirault, claiming that Amirault’s sexual abuse prompted the boy to engage in sexually aggressive behavior. In 1986, Gerald was eventually convicted of assaulting and raping nine children and sentenced to 30 years of prison. Also, his mother, Violet, and his sister Cheryl were accused and convicted of similar charges against four children and sentenced to jail for eight to 20 years. Cheryl eventually reached an agreement for her release from prison. Gerald Amirault was released in 2004, 18 years after his conviction.
- Bernard Baran: In 1984, parents of a boy at a child development center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, accused Baran of molesting their son after they tried to get Baran removed from his job due to his homosexuality. Baran was convicted and was subsequently freed in 2010 after a new trial was granted due to alleged prosecutorial misconduct in the original trial.
- Little Rascals: In 1992, a mother in Martensville, Saskatchewan, Canada, accused a woman who ran a babysitting service in her home of sexually abusing her child. An investigation was started, and allegations snowballed. More than a dozen persons ultimately faced over 100 charges connected with running a Satanic cult, which allegedly practiced ritualized sexual abuse of multiple children. The original investigation was found to have been motivated by “emotional hysteria,” and the accused were awarded damages for wrongful prosecution.
- Glendale Montessori: In 1987, James Toward and Brenda Williams were accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing six boys who attended Glendale Montessori in Stuart, Florida. Williams was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison, and Toward pled guilty to the charges to avoid a life sentence, ultimately receiving a 27-year sentence.
- Oak Hill Satanic Ritual Abuse Trial: In 1991, Fran and Dan Keller were accused of sexually assaulting several kids and forcing them to watch the killing and dismemberment of animals. The couple was sentenced to 48 years in prison for sexually abusing a 3-year-old girl. This sentence was overturned in 2013 when an emergency room physician declared that his medical testimony in the case was erroneous.
- San Bernardino: In 2016, Humberto Escobar, a daycare worker, was arrested after several accusations of child sexual abuse were made against him while he worked at the daycare center. The alleged abuse occurred at Escobar Family Child Care in Hesperia, California. Escobar was arrested on a charge of penetration with a foreign object with a child less than ten years old.
What is child sexual abuse?
It is crucial for victims to be able to know what exactly sexual abuse is so they can recognize they are experiencing or experienced sexual abuse as a child. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the definition of child sexual abuse is “any attempted completed or attempted (non-completed) sexual act, sexual contact with, or exploitation (i.e., noncontact sexual interaction) of a child by a caregiver.”
The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) describes child sexual abuse as involving “any sexual activity with a child where consent is not or cannot be given…. This includes sexual contact between an adult and a child, regardless of whether there is deception or the child understands the sexual nature of the activity.”
Child sex abuse frequently involves physical contact, such as:
- Any direct sexual act including, oral, vaginal, or anal
- The use of children in pornographic materials
- Forcing a child to masturbate.
Child sex abuse isn’t strictly limited to physical acts. Other examples include:
- Exhibitionism or exposing oneself to a child
- Masturbation in front of a child
- Obscene phone calls or text messages to children
- Psychological pressure to engage in sexual activity.
These acts do not always involve force or violence to get children to engage in these actions. Perpetrators often try to manipulate the child’s trust and hide the abuse.
How do you know if you were abused as a child or if your child is being abused?
Sometimes it can be hard to know if you were abused as a child because you might not remember the abuse. Generally, you will be more likely to remember the abuse that occurred over a considerable period of time or abuse that was more than isolated incidents. You still might have trouble recalling abuse from childhood because children frequently block out these memories and put them in the back of their heads where they will not think about them. So, sometimes you will not realize your own abuse until your repressed memories manifest somehow in your life, or if you seek professional help from a psychiatrist or therapist to unearth these repressed memories.
All parents should be alert to these indicators and warning signs of sexual abuse and exploitation:
- Changes in behavior, extreme mood swings, withdrawal, and excessive crying.
- Increased bed-wetting, intense nightmares, fear of going to bed or sleeping alone, and other sleep disturbances.
- Displaying or engaging in inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters.
- Changes in toilet-training habits.
- Regression to infantile behavior; clinging.
- A fear of certain people, places, or activities, especially an excessive, new fear of going to the daycare center.
- Pain, itching, bleeding, fluid, or rawness in private areas.
- A sudden acting out of feelings or aggressive or rebellious behavior.
How can I report daycare child sexual abuse?
When your child discloses acts of abuse to you, you should immediately alert local law enforcement. Also, all states have child protection agencies designated to receive and investigate reports of suspected child abuse and neglect.
All states have reporting statutes for child abuse and neglect that 1) mandate that specific individuals report child abuse, 2) to whom the report must be made, and 3) the report’s form and content.
Examples of mandated reporters include social workers, police officers, daycare staff members, and other employees at child care facilities.
Circumstances under which a report is required vary from state to state. Usually, a mandated reporter must report any suspected abuse, or they otherwise have a reason to believe that a child has been abused. Most states have toll-free telephone numbers for use in reporting abuse or neglect.
What are the long-term effects of child sexual abuse?
Child care centers are supposed to protect children and help them with their growth and development. Sex abuse experienced as a child, even when repressed, can have significant long-term effects on the individual that can last their entire life. These effects include:
- Depression and anxiety
- Negative self-esteem
- High risk of suicide
- Sleeping and eating disorders
- Substance abuse
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How can you prevent child sexual abuse in daycare centers?
There are several steps you can take to prevent abuse from occurring at the daycare center. The first step is properly vetting and choosing your daycare center. First, you should visit prospective daycare centers and ask the staff questions personally while observing their interactions with the other children. Second, ask about their hiring and supervision policies. Look for people attentive to your child’s needs and who appear relaxed and joyful around the children. Check the references of potential daycare centers carefully. Contact the local police department and department of social services to see if any reports have been filed about the daycare provider.
If possible, you should select a licensed daycare facility that runs criminal background checks on its employees. One of the best ways to get first-hand knowledge of how the daycare provider operates is to involve yourself in the center’s activities, like volunteering to assist in field trips or special events. The following is a list of other recommendations and tips that may help you choose a safe daycare center:
- Parents have free access to the facility, no requirements to call first before picking up their child, and no areas off-limits to parents. Daycare abuse is more likely to happen at facilities that have limited parental access.
- Check to see if the bathrooms contain any areas where the children can be isolated. Find out who goes with the children to the bathroom and for what purposes. Over half of all daycare sexual abuse occurs during toileting.
- Daycares with higher child-to-staff ratios are generally considered riskier.
- Find out who, besides the daycare staff, will be interacting with your child. A fair amount of sexual abuse cases in daycare centers occurs at the hands of people not directly involved in child care responsibilities: bus drivers, janitors, and relatives of the daycare center provider staff. Children are also sexually abused by family members related to the daycare provider. Make sure your child’s contact with these individuals is limited.
- Discuss in-depth with the daycare provider how child discipline will be handled. Ask your child each day about what happens at the daycare center, paying close attention to what punishments were used under what circumstances and any other incidents that made the child uncomfortable.
- Don’t limit your vetting to just men that work at a daycare center; vet women as well.
Along with choosing a trusted daycare center, you should give specific instructions to your child and teach them what to do in potentially dangerous situations so that they can stop the abuse before it happens. The following is some advice to give your child:
- Instruct them to say NO to anyone who asks them to do something painful, embarrassing, or wrong.
- No one should touch any of your child’s body parts that are covered by a bathing suit.
- Tell them not to stay with an adult by themselves in the bathroom, office, or closet if it makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Do not let anyone trick them into keeping a “little secret” or by making threats or giving them candy or other gifts.
- Do not let anyone take a picture of them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
How can a child sexual abuse lawyer help me?
Some daycare child sex abuse survivors never disclose the abuse because the victim is too afraid of their perpetrator. Another reason the survivor might not disclose the abuse is because the mental anguish of going through the allegation process and whatever else follows does not seem worth it. Hiring a sexual abuse lawyer can help you make the right choices in this process in several different ways:
- An attorney will help you produce and maintain critical documents, photos, and other evidence so that you have a strong case against the abuser when the time for trial comes. Documenting the abuse is key to obtaining a favorable verdict against an abuser.
- The investigative process into abuse claims can be very daunting, involving significant contact with police, the accused abusers, and sometimes even the media. A lawyer can guide you through this whirlwind of events.
- An attorney can help you can obtain compensation for several different types of damages from child sex abuse, including:
- medical bills related to the abuse
- cost of emotional therapy stemming from the abuse
- emotional distress like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- diminished quality of life
- pain and suffering.
- Retaining a lawyer will help you can maximize the value of your claim and adequately remedy the suffering you have endured. A lawyer will help you determine if the issue of daycare stemmed from the negligent hiring practices of the center itself. A lawyer can attempt to prove negligent hiring practices by examining how the daycare center vetted the daycare employees and whether they looked into the employees’ criminal history.
- It can be difficult standing up to your abuser, especially when you have to deal with someone you trusted. A lawyer will ask the tough questions for you and keep these people from intimidating you.
- Keeping up with statutes of limitations. In the aftermath of a traumatic event, a lawyer makes sure that you don’t wait too long to file your case and lose your chance for compensation.
When a daycare center is no longer a safe place or safe environment for a child because sexual predators are allowed to be in close proximity with young girls and young boys, you deserve to seek justice. The sexual abuse of children is a horrifying occurrence that is too common in the United States and the world. Victims of sexual abuse and parents of child sex abuse victims do not have to go through the process of seeking compensation to help with their healing journeys by themselves. A compassionate, knowledgeable law firm can help you every step of the way, from filing the complaint to interviewing child witnesses and gathering all of the facts.
When do I have to file a claim by?
Each state has different laws governing child sexual abuse. The primary difference in state laws is the statute of limitations, which is a law limiting the amount of time a victim has to initiate a lawsuit.
Recently several states have added extensions for cases involving child sexual abuse.
For instance, New York recently passed the New York Child Victims Act, which extended the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse crimes to when the victim turns 28 in criminal cases and 55 in civil cases. This law included a lookback window that gave past sexual abuse victims one year to file claims that lapsed under the old statute of limitations. Several other states are considering or have recently enacted similar revolutionary law changes, including California, Arizona, New Jersey, North Carolina, Vermont, and Montana.
When should I contact a law firm?
When you suspect that your child has been subjected to sexual abuse, contact your local police department and a law firm as soon as possible. Herman Law will help ensure that you will have a strong case against these perpetrators of abuse so that you can make sure they will never harm your child or any other child again. This scarring abuse can have negative mental impacts on your child for a significant amount of time, even for the rest of their life.
A daycare sexual abuse lawsuit may allow your child to recover the compensation they need for therapy and other expenses related to terrible acts of abuse. Nothing can undo the heavy damage that these heinous acts can cause your children, but Herman Law will lay out a step-by-step roadmap for you to take control and get your life back on track. Contact us now for a free consultation to learn about your legal rights and how we can help you on your healing journey.
One of the things people say to me, “Why are there so many daycare cases?” I say it’s like, “Why do bank robbers rob banks? That’s where the money is.” Kids are being abused in daycares because that’s where pedophiles are going. That’s where the kids are.